This piece was written during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the actors currently on strike, the movie/series/feature being covered here wouldn't exist.
BY M.N.MILLER NOVEMBER 3, 2023
At first glance, Anatomy of a Fall (Anatomie d'une chute) appears to be your conventional courtroom thriller. The setup is intriguing, expertly drawing in the viewer with an ominous Robert Frost-like setting. The juxtaposition of the pulsating steel drum cover of 50 Cent's "P.I.M.P." reverberates throughout the entire house, resembling a form of psychological warfare. The key players look suspicious, from the irritated wife to a guest leaving while suspiciously pulling her hoodie over her head and casting an unsettling look back at the home undergoing renovations.
However, as you will soon realize, it's a cover for an examination of the crumbling of a marriage. The header that the body takes from the third floor while bouncing off a tool shed into some powdery, freshly fallen snow is secondary to the story. The courtroom drama serves as a backdrop to unveil each fascinating layer of the dissolution of a marriage with Hitchcockian precision.
Anatomy of a Fall follows Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller), an outstanding German novelist who stops her interview after her husband, Samuel (Samuel Maleski, Softie), blasts music out of petty professional jealousy. Sandra ends the interview, and the reporter leaves. They have a son, Daniel (Milo Machado-Graner), who is partially blind due to an accident that has placed financial strain on their marriage. They moved back to Samuel’s home in France to make ends meet.
Sensing that an argument may unfold, Daniel takes his guide dog for a walk, as he often does. When he returns, he finds his father lying on his back with his head in a puddle of blood. Daniel calls for his mother, who rushes out of the house and appears as shocked as her son. Soon, Sandra is charged with murder. Vincent Renzi (Swann Arlaud, known for his award winning turn in By the Grace of God), a local lawyer, takes her case, which has several holes, and the autopsy raises more questions than answers.
Anatomy of a Fall succeeds under the remarkably steady direction of filmmaker Justine Triet, who wrote the script with her Sybil collaborator Arthur Harari. Their film is a fascinating procedural about the fragile nature of relationships and examines human behavior. While the filmmakers do an excellent job building intrigue over the murder case that hooks the viewer, the reasons for their fighting are grounded yet provocative, slowly beginning to take over the picture, and are just as engrossing.
As the story progresses, tension builds. When the script reaches the film’s best scene, an argument becomes something personal, and old wounds are torn open again. It’s a fascinating sequence because Triet’s film examines the subjectivity of one’s memory, perspective, and understanding. Yes, promises can be made between spouses, but behaviours do not change.
This is where the script begins to develop it’s juice. Bringing up primal needs such as acceptance, connectedness, contentment, and gratification. The argument between the couple is staggering and all too real. Sandra and Samuel are determined to get their points across, taking turns not listening to one another. This is all brought to life by performance from Hüller, which is the best of her career.
The legendary German actress's performance is complex in how she's selfish and bluntly arrogant. She cheats, lies, and is certainly not the picture of warmth and understanding. Hüller encompasses wonderful human flaws that are acceptable from a toxic male perspective but never for a woman. Her Oscar-worthy performance is an expert in restraint while being exceptionally powerful at times.
Many will find Anatomy of a Fall enigmatic, leaving key plot points unresolved. And that's fair because this is that rare courtroom thriller about something entirely different. What cannot be argued is the psychological component Justine Triet's film puts on full display for everyone to see. Anatomy of a Fall depicts a marriage on trial, not a murder, with breathless results.